by Mary Pomichter

Treeless streets filled with asphalt and concrete, barren stumps, broken sidewalks, deformed tree branches growing around overhead wires – these common urban sights are reminders that we need to be better stewards of the trees that provide a most important natural element enhancing our city streets.

Phase One of the Green Space Initiative here in Chestnut Hill resulted in the planting of well-chosen street trees on Germantown Avenue to replace those from years past. Efforts are continuing this spring to build further on these efforts. Extensive support for homeowners is available through of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and a team  of Chestnut Hill volunteers who are engaging neighbors in an educational, hands-on, tree planting experience.

Homeowners who complete a simple application (see information below) pay nothing for a tree that tree tenders will plant for them. This resource is due in great part to people like Mindy Maslin, the PHS tree tenders coordinator, who speaks passionately about the need to replenish our dwindling canopy of trees and has worked tirelessly to provide many with trees and the tools to plant them.

Whether receiving a tree through the program or purchasing it themselves, homeowners need to understand the basics of tree selection and care. Pennsylvania is a remarkably diverse state with regards to trees that grow and thrive here so choosing from among the many options available can be daunting.

With regard to street trees that are grown near sidewalks, the city offers much guidance through a comprehensive list of trees (see PHSonline.org), which was compiled by arborists of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry Division.

Mindy Masilin explains that trees are easy to care for and remarkably resilient in spite of the many threats they face from pollution, urban development, overhead wires, and even from our pets.

“The most important thing a homeowner can do for a tree is water it, especially during the first year or so after planting,” she said “Fertilizer is not helpful unless there is a specific problem and most trees will thrive without it.”

Mulching is the second really important step in proper tree care, and it too is easy if you remember the 3-3-3 rule. Leave 3 inches bare around the base of tree so water can flow to roots easily. Spread mulch 3 feet wide and 3 inches thick to prevent the growth of grass and weeds, which will steal nutrients from your tree. Oh and regarding those adorable pets, Mindy explains, “They should not be using your tree as a fire hydrant,” Maslin said. “Urine is not a fertilizer and its acidic composition is not good for trees.”

With this month’s tree planting on April 23, a number of residential blocks will join those that have already begun the work of replenishing and beautifying their neighborhood.

Please join us at next week’s tree planting, enter our photo contest to showcase some beautiful Chestnut Hill trees, or perhaps just go ahead and plant a tree in your own yard. A tree is an investment in the future that will reap countless rewards now and for years to come.

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